THURSDAY, March 27, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- The way dengue virus matures and becomes infectious has been determined by biologists at Purdue University in Indiana.
The dengue virus, which is spread by mosquitoes, infects more than 50 million people a year and kills about 24,000, primarily in tropical regions. The virus is prevalent in Southeast Asia, Central America and South America.
The Purdue team identified important changes that occur as the virus is assembled and moves from the inner to the outer portions of a host cell before the virus is secreted and can infect other cells.
Virus particles are exposed to progressively less acidic conditions as they move along this "secretory pathway." The changing acidity plays a critical role in the maturation of the Dengue virus.
"This is possibly the most detailed understanding of how any virus matures," research co-author Michael Rossmann, a professor of biological sciences, said in a prepared statement.
He noted that there's been extensive research into pathways used by viruses to enter new host cells, but the way that viruses move out of host cells to infect other cells isn't well understood.
These findings, published in the March 28 issue of Science, pertain to all other flaviviruses, which include other dangerous insect-borne disease such as West Nile, yellow fever, and St. Louis encephalitis, the researchers said.
This research may help in efforts to find ways to treat or prevent viral infections.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about dengue fever.